Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Volkswagen Golf: Dead (For The U.S. Anyway)

Every Generation of Volkswagen Golfs

We've lost a host of small hatchback choices over the last few years from the U.S. market. Most of these departures weren't terribly surprising. Then I read today that the Volkswagen Golf—a mainstay of the U.S. compact car landscape for over 46 years—is being axed. Wow.

I won't go into a long history of the car. Just know that it showed up as the VW Rabbit in 1974 and continued for over  four decades as one of the most affordable European cars out there. There were a multitude of trim levels and engine choices. From small, gas-powered four-cylinders, diesel-powered fuel misers, and GTIs with both V-6 engines, turbocharged four-cylinders, and normally aspirated four-pots: they were always known as driver's cars. 

There had been speculation about the stoic hatchback's disappearance from this market, and VW made it official today. The car, made in Puebla, Mexico, will no longer be produced for the U.S. after selling nearly 2.5 million cars. There was no press release for the Canadian market, which makes us believe the car will continue there. 

It should be noted the redesigned Mk 8 Golf GTI and Golf R will return to the U.S., but the regular "Golf" will be driving away into the sunset. 

Accolades and a Long History

According to Volkswagen, "A Golf model has earned a spot on Car and Driver’s 10Best list for the last 15 years in a row, and the current-generation Mk 7 Golf was named North American Car of the Year when it debuted for the 2015 model year."

Here's a bit about each generation:

Seven Generations of Golf (U.S. Model Years)

Golf I: MY 1975-1984

  • First sold in December 1974 as “Rabbit” in the U.S.
  • 1.5-liter engine with 70 hp
  • GTI introduced in 1983 with 1.8-liter 90 hp engine

Golf II: MY 1985-1992

  • Sold as “Golf” in the U.S.
  • Dimensions grow by nearly 7 inches in length, 3 inches in wheelbase, and 2 inches in width
  • Standard engine is revised 1.8-liter with 85 hp, GTI introduces 2.0-liter engine with 131 hp
  • Catalytic converter, anti-lock braking system and power steering debut

Golf III: MY 1993-1999

  • Design shifts to wedge shape
  • Base powertrain is 2.0-liter with 115 hp, GTI goes to available 2.8-liter VR6® with 172 hp
  • Front and side airbags debut, advances in body construction result in improved crash safety
  • VR6® engine and cruise control offered for the first time

Golf IV: MY 1999.5-2005 

  • All-new design with flatter windshield, and roofline carried further back with steeper rear window
  • Electronic stability control and side curtain airbags debut
  • 1.8T engine introduced for GTI, bringing turbocharging to this generation of GTI
  • R32 introduced for 2004 with 240 hp, six-speed manual, and 4MOTION all-wheel drive

Golf V: MY 2006-2009

  • New multi-link rear suspension; rain-sensing wipers introduced
  • Sold as “Rabbit” again in the US
  • DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmissions debuts as an option for GTI and the standard transmission for R32; Bi-Xenon® headlights introduced on both models
  • Base engine is 150 hp 2.5-liter, GTI moves to 200 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine
  • R32 reintroduced for 2008 with 250 hp

Golf VI: MY 2010-2014

  • “Golf” name returns for the U.S.
  • Prominent character line runs from headlights to taillights
  • Base powertrain is 2.5-liter with 170 hp
  • Golf R introduced for 2012, with the VR6 engine replaced by a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine pushing 256 hp

Golf VII: MY 2015-2021

  • Based on Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture
  • Golf grows in size yet drops in weight, despite a plethora of new and upscale features
  • Facelift in MY 2018 features included revised headlight and taillight designs, redesigned bumpers, and infotainment and driver assistance updates
  • Base 1.8-liter TSI 170 hp engine replaces 2.5-liter to gain an EPA-estimated 6 mpg highway, later replaced by the 1.4-liter TSI engine in 2019
  • GTI and Golf R powered by new versions of the 2.0-liter TSI engine, with up to 228 hp for GTI and up to 288 hp for Golf R (both achieved with premium fuel) Available driver-assistance technology includes Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Park Distance Control
If you've been on the fence about a Golf purchase, you'd better do it fast. The seventh-generation will be the last of the U.S. 

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